29 May 2012 Scene & Heard: Golden Valley - Bredwardine
by Carolyn Tanner
Championship leader Jane Williams registered her 100th career success - 94 in Points, four National Hunt and two on the flat - when landing the Ladies' Open on Jim Squires' and Judith Healey's The General Lee, but the two-length verdict in no way reveals the drama of the closing stages.
The odds-on favourite was being chased hard by Network Oscar as they turned into the straight when a loose hunt horse appeared on the course in front of them. Despite the best efforts of several people to encourage the horse along the run-in, it turned to meet the two protagonists head-on as they approached the line, causing the faster-finishing Claire Hart and Network Oscar to veer violently to avoid being broadsided.
The general consensus was that the result might not have been affected, but the distance between them would certainly have been much shorter.
"It would have been quick enough for him, but it's fresh ground that hasn't been raced on," pointed out The General Lee's trainer Phil Rowley, adding "We'll keep him going to help Jane, so he could go to Chaddesley or Tabley."
Jane triumphed on Billyvoddan at Bangor the following day, and she remains two clear of Jacqueline Coward, who also scored twice over the weekend, in the title race.
Shake The Bottle was withdrawn after unseating Rachel Leyshon on the way to the start, but the day's many happenings were by no means the prerogative of the Ladies' race, with the Club Members' in particular having its fair share of the action, with false starts, fines, a fatality and an injured rider.
One rider trying to get a flyer was firmly rebuked by the starter, who eventually got the field away at the third attempt, but the pre-race antics had unsettled Beat The Bandits, who not for the first time refused to race. The eventual winner Busy Times had also held up proceedings by the need to have his tongue-strap replaced and was then slowly away, but rider Hannah Lewis felt this was to his advantage. "He settled better like this," she explained.
"Glyn [Watkins] plays music to him in the box to keep him calm," smiled owner Lorna Vaughan, whose own choice would be something classical, but whose trainer prefers modern!
Sadly the runner-up Make Room collapsed and died after the race.
Ally Stirling and Conor Shoemark, the respective riders of Ice Bucket and Murphys Fusilier, were fined £75 for going the wrong side of a marker when up with the pace after a circuit, and the 10th/17th fence had to be omitted after Josh Harris was knocked out in a heavy fall from Red Watch.
There was a considerable delay awaiting the arrival of the air ambulance, but it was then decided that he could be transported to hospital by road. He was later allowed home, but not before X-rays also revealed a fractured shoulder. He was due to see a specialist yesterday (Monday).
Josh, who has recently set up his own gardening and fencing business, unsurprisingly admitted to feeling less than 100%. Perhaps fortunately, he can remember nothing between leaving the paddock and waking up in hospital.
There was an impressive front-running performance in the split-on-the-day Restricted, Division One, by Ruttan Lake, for whom owner-rider Nathan Deakin paid just £500 at Ascot in October.
"Nathan rides my show horses, and he was bought as a hunter, and to do Racehorse to Riding Horse classes," explained trainer Wyn Morris, a joint-Master of the Pembrokeshire, "but he showed a bit of promise at home even though his form under Rules was poor. Nathan takes the credit for picking him out - it was nothing to do with me!"
Ruttan Lake had been off the course for eight weeks in mid-season after going through a barbed wire fence, with the resulting scar visible on his near hind.
"He can be keen so he needs a true-run race," stated Nathan, who now has to decide whether to send the nine-year-old to the Sales, a venture which would undoubtedly earn him a handsome profit.
Dunbrody House's Rules form was equally uninspiring, but he has taken on a new lease of life between the flags, as was shown by his Men's Open victory in the hands of Darach Skelly, who produced him with a perfectly-timed ride to lead approaching the last and score very comfortably.
Owner-trainer Karen Bowen was unable to be present, as she and husband Peter were entertaining owners at their Pembrokeshire yard.
The turnaround has been due to a change of lifestyle, as Dunbrody House now lives out and is trained from the field. "He never sees a stable," Darach commented.
Another of the day's winners who likes the fresh air is King Kieren, successful in the second of the young horse Maidens under owner-trainer Vici Morse's husband Richard. "He lives out with the mares and foals," said Vici, who paid just £2,000 for the chestnut at Ascot in August.
"He's a great hunter," she added. "He's schooled well at home, and he likes the quicker ground."
Richard must be one of the tallest riders in the country, but "Six foot is as high as I'm going," he jested when quizzed as to his exact height. Unsurprisingly he struggles with his weight and admitted that he had been on the verge of retiring prior to this victory, the second of his career.
"I'm still recovering from Christmas." Richard's reason for his weight tribulations is probably no longer valid!
Cloak Of Silence's victory in the Restricted Division Two was also a family affair. The son of Oscar is trained by Richard Mathias and was ridden by his nephew John, while one of his quartet of owners is Richard's wife Candy.
"We've owned him for four years, since Richard found him in Ireland," said Candy, delighted that the perseverance of her co-owners, Steph Hyde, who rides him out every weekend, Jim Apperley and Roger Williams, had been rewarded.
Cloak Of Silence had won his Maiden on this track 12 months ago, proving Candy's assertion that he is definitely a spring horse.
Richard and Candy's five-year-old twin sons, Fred and Tom, had accompanied their parents to the meeting, and there is no doubting who their hero might be. "They want to be like jockey John," laughed Candy.
Mathew Barber has been in excellent form of late, and he put another on the board when taking the young horse Maiden Division One on Kim Thomas's Cousinade, for whom a flat track and the fast ground has worked the oracle. "He was so well at home but he just wasn't finishing his races. He'd be travelling well and suddenly run out of steam after two miles," explained Kim, who purchased Cousinade through Mark Gichero. "He had a soft palate operation but that didn't make any difference."
Kim fits in doing her two horses with driving a school bus, and she also runs two ice-cream vans, making her, on such a hot day, the envy of everyone within earshot as she conveyed the information!
Mathew's brother Marc enjoyed a comfortable passage in the Hunt race on Interpleader, who was retaining the trophy he won last year for owner Brian Davies and his trainer daughter Sheila Lewis. Connections also took the prize in 2010 with Aeronglas, although in their three years of triumphs their charges have only had a grand total of four opponents to overcome.
Marc has cut down on his riding commitments to concentrate more on the training, but stressed that he would always be available to partner Interpleader. "He's been a good friend to me," he smiled.
There was a further short hold-up before the closing 8yo&up Maiden when Grimley Giant needed the attention of the farrier, but despite the meeting finishing some 90 minutes later than scheduled there was no shortage of spectators to watch Kevin Salter's Saalback land the spoils under Bradley Gibbs.
It was the first occasion on which Bradley had ridden her in a race, but he had previously sat on her at home, said Luke Price, who has been assisting Kevin with the mare. "If you canter her behind she's fine, but she's very keen if she goes in front," Luke articulated. "She weaves and windsucks so she's not the most straightforward."
The runner-up Outanover was one of a number of horses who were affected by the heat, but thanks to the plentiful water on hand all appeared to recover once cooled off.